9 signs you’ve mastered the art of not needing approval from others

Hi, friend! My name’s Michelle and I’m a former people-pleaser. 

For a time, I thought my worth was directly proportional to how people perceived me. For a long time, their approval was the narrative I subscribed to and lived by. 

I wanted to feel wanted, I wanted to be liked. I wanted to please people so my value wouldn’t decrease in their eyes, to be the shiniest thing at all times.

This was my brand of people-pleasing. The brand of poison I find most delicious.

Sounds familiar? Am I hitting too close to home? I feel you.

No, really, these words aren’t empty ones. I know how it feels to want others’ approval. To be so consumed by it that I forgot even my own shadow.

I’ve done the work to heal though, I’ve come so far, but I admit there are still days I feel it creeping up. There’s no shame in me to admit that.

Still, the progress shows and it’s good to be reminded.

And if you also need the reminder, here are 9 signs you’ve mastered the art of not needing approval from others. 

1) You’ve put yourself first

Gosh, it’s infuriating whenever I remember how quickly I used to change my opinions just because I was swayed by the need to not disappoint someone.

At the end of that mess, the one I’m disappointing the most is myself. 

The way I went back to exes who gave the barest of minimums just because I was afraid of warping their opinion of me? The way I let old friends walk all over me just because I didn’t want them not to like me?

It was dumb! I was dumb. I settled for crumbs because I thought crumbs were the only thing I deserved. 

But I deserve the world, friend, and so do you.   

And this is a lesson I’ve kept close, and I’m hoping that you have as well. No longer do I lazily scrawl my name dead last on my list of people I need to take care of. 

No longer do I treat myself as an afterthought. And if you know exactly what I mean, isn’t this such a powerful feeling?

2) You have learned to say No

The hardest lesson for me to learn is to accept that “No” is a complete sentence. And it’s a powerful one.

No, I do not want to do that. No, I do want to be friends with so-and-so. No, I do not want to do unpaid overtime. No, that goes against my beliefs. No, please don’t talk to me like that. 

It’s equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, especially at the beginning. Saying “no” provided me with space and time to do things I actually wanted. 

The moral is that saying “no” gives you the chance to say “yes” to what you actually want. 

3) You show up exactly as you are

When people’s approval is no longer your concern, you stop trying to fit the mold they’re putting you in. 

It feels almost rebellious to constantly show up exactly as you are, doesn’t it? Free from shame and expectations, what else can the world demand of you? How else can they control you?

When conformity is a choice rather than a requirement. When you appear exactly as you are without a shred of accommodating other people’s idea of what you should be. 

When you show up exactly as you are, at your discretion. 

I’m not even talking about being showy about this, if your truth is a quiet and simple life or your truth is wanting to loudly leave your legacy in the world, that’s fine. 

(As long as you don’t step on anybody else’s truths as well, that is.)

The power is not only in knowing you can be whoever you want to be but also in knowing that you don’t need to wait for permission to be who you are. 

4) You don’t do things just to impress others

I mean, at this point, why would you? 

Impressing others is an exhausting and performative endeavor. Now, your life is no longer one long party trick. No longer do you go out of your way to impress others.

You have carved a path that’s most comfortable for you, leaving behind all the labels you used to wear. You’re just… well, you.  

5) You don’t fear failure (or you fear it less)

pic1808 1 9 signs you’ve mastered the art of not needing approval from others

Failure has stopped being scary for you. 

And if you think about it, people’s need for excellence and acceptance could be a culprit for the fear of failure in the first place. 

Now, everything is done for enjoyment, not public opinion. Awards and rewards are a good-to-have and no longer the sole motivation. 

Even failure has become a stepping stone, a learning experience. You then try more things, even with the possibility of not being good at it. 

6) You have set your boundaries and stuck by them

I’ve been on this healing journey for quite some time now and let me tell you, there’s a learning curve for setting healthy boundaries.

Frankly, I’m still learning. And you might be ahead of me on this or you might only be starting. Our paths are different, so that’s fine.

What matters is that we accept the need to set healthy boundaries. What matters is the acceptance that we *need* to stick to these boundaries. 

In the process of shedding the need for approval, setting healthy boundaries allows you your space. 

It allows you to understand how you want to be treated and adjust accordingly.

It allows you to become unavailable to the things you do not permit in your life and make space for what you do.

7) You stick by your decisions

This isn’t to say that you don’t listen to sound advice, no, that’s not what I’m saying at all. This is me saying that your decisions aren’t easily swayed by public opinion.

You do your due diligence. You make your own mind up, make the decisions that ring truest to you, to your values and beliefs.

And if you do change your mind, it isn’t to hop on the bandwagon. 

You’re not easily influenced, aren’t you? 

You have the audacity to decide independently.

8) You’ve stopped comparing yourself to others

You have stopped comparing yourself. Didn’t you know? There’s no harm without comparison. 

Can’t really remember where I heard this little nugget, but I’m sure a lot of people have said a version of it along the way, “What your opinion of me is your problem, not mine.”

By that logic, what others think of you is their problem, not yours. And in the same breath, what you think of others is your problem, not theirs. 

The solution then is to stay in your lane. To focus at your own pace.

It’s good to be reminded that the goal is never the finish line but rather the distance covered. 

There is so much wasted time in trying to keep up with other people’s progress, especially since we can all spend that time on ourselves.

9) You have shed other people’s expectations of you

Expectations lead to disappointments, doesn’t it?

Once again mentioning this little nugget of wisdom, “What your opinion of me is your problem, not mine.”

This shifted my perspective. 

Because, yeah, why should I care what others think of me? Regardless of what I do or what I choose, someone’s going to be disappointed.

Someone’s going to not like my decision, why would I choose for that someone to be me? I *should* be on *my* team, not against. 

If you’re someone who has shed the need for other people’s approval, these words might be ringing true for you. 

What I have learned is that my one true critic is myself, it’s “man vs. self” in here, baby. So, if there is anyone in the world that I need to have the approval of, it’s myself. 

For so long I considered myself last, made myself shrink in favor of making space for someone else. 

But you know what? I refuse to be my own enemy, not anymore. 

And if there’s one thing you take from this, I hope it’s that. The world can have whatever opinion of you that they choose, but your own should never be against you. 

And that’s when you’ll know you’ve mastered the art of not needing others’ approval, when the most important one you wish to gain is your own. 

Picture of Michelle Marie Manese

Michelle Marie Manese

M Manese is a part-time creative writer, illustrator, and full-time fangirl hoping to find her way within the Content space. She makes art here: @michellemmanese

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